The Art of Giving and Receiving

Acts 20:35
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

I’m in a place right now where I’m really looking at giving and receiving. Not in martyred or co-dependant and manipulative ways. But rather, I’m looking at balance between the two. Being a caretaker who insists on pulling myself up via my own bootstraps continually, I’m learning how to bring balance to my daily life.

Giving based on a need to win approval or loyalty – is manipulative control. Or the kind of giving where the above scripture verse is taken completely out of context – it becomes martyred and tired. I say that because those who give without receiving are still controlling people, places, and things. It’s unhealthy. You know what I mean, I’ll do this if you do that, or the “I give and I give and I give (Superglue wrist to forehead for effect) and THIS is the thanks I get?”

Giving – is healthy when done without expectations. It’s also healthy when it’s balanced by receiving.

Receiving, I’m learning can be healthy too. We don’t always like it, do we? Some people might, but I don’t. When I’m receiving, I feel in debt to the giver and I don’t like feeling indebted. I don’t receive well. I have a hard time receiving gifts, compliments, even friendship. I’m much more comfortable on the giver’s platform. I’m much more comfortable when I’m in control. It’s about balance.

We can’t always be the givers and we can’t always be the receivers, especially in relationships. We need to take turns doing both.

I got a taste of what that looked like last summer and I decided I needed to learn how to receive better than I presently do. A friend of mine had their house broken into. All of her jewelry, money, and mementos from her deceased mother were stolen. They even stole her perfume. She felt emotionally violated, and I’ll dare say “raped” at least on some level. Her safe haven (home) was no longer safe. A stranger was in her bedroom. A stranger touched her things. Intimate things, private things, and their ghost stained her spirit for a long time. Emotional rape, to women, can be just as bad as the physical kind. It takes a long time to heal from something like that.

I know exactly how she felt. My house had been robbed as a child. It’s frightening. It’s violating. While I couldn’t replace what was stolen, or her piece of mind, I could do something nice. So I did. I bought her a bottle of her favorite perfume and gave it to her before church.

My gift to her was the perfume. I was the giver. And she was the receiver. Upon receiving the perfume, we immediately switched roles. She gave me her excitement, happiness and joy. And I received it. Right up until her husband took it away. Not the perfume, but her joy. Seeing her excitement, he publicly chastised her, telling her that “it’s more blessed to give than to receive.” And she shut down. He robbed her, and me of the flow of life. We were giving and receiving from each other in a healthy and positive way.

His criticism of her joy, stopped the flow and ruined the moment. I wanted to give him something right then and there too. I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. But I didn’t. I’m a coward when it comes to conflict. I give praise, and stuff criticism down my own throat rather than someone else’s. And I received the wrong message – I received his message that well, receiving is wrong. I also sent him the wrong message, or the right one, depending on how you see it. I sent a truthful message anyway. By shutting down, I communicated distrust. By withholding my disagreement, I missed out on sharing my true heart. We both had a chance to give and receive and build a relationship of honesty and we blew it.

What I’ve decided this year is that HE is wrong. It is blessed to do both. To consciously choose to be one or the other only is unhealthy. It contaminates the well. There’s no flow of fresh air in this kind of one-sided living.
God is a giver of great gifts. He gives unmerited and undeserved favor on a daily basis. If all I focus on is giving whether it’s to him or others I deny others the joy of my receiving.

I’m a lot like my friend. I don’t receive well. This is a season where I get to learn and consciously recognize when I’m giving and when I’m receiving. That might sound odd to people who don’t struggle with this issue, but I do struggle and because of that, I need to learn how to be still and do both.

In my garden, for example, I give time, water, nutrients and care to my plants. If I don’t take time to receive the beauty that comes as a result of that, I’ll miss out on joy. In receiving beauty I receive my own kind of nourishment. I need to be still and open in order for that gift (which is really from God if you think about it.) to fill my soul. It’s about letting go of control and like the story below, it keeps the water living and my life renewable.
Barton wrote this short piece, “There are Two Seas” for McCall’s in 1928. John D. Rockefeller used it as a parable in his speech for a United Fund campaign. It was also reprinted in the Reader’s Digest in 1946.

There Are Two Seas by Bruce Barton

There are two seas in Palestine.
One is fresh, and fish are in it.
Splashes of green adorn its banks.
Trees spread their branches over it
and stretch out their thirsty roots to sip of its healing waters.
Along its shores the children play as children played when He was there.
He loved it. He could look across its silver surface when He spoke His parables.
And on a rolling plain not far away He fed five thousand people.
The river Jordan makes this sea with sparkling water from the hills.
So it laughs in the sunshine.
And men build their houses near to it, and birds their nests;
and every kind of life is happier because it is there.
The river Jordan flows on south into another sea.
Here no splash of fish, no fluttering of leaf,
no song of birds, no children’s laughter.
Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent business.
The air hangs heavy above its water, and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink.
What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor seas?
Not the river Jordan. It empties the same good water into both.
Not the soil in which they lie; not the country round about.
This is the difference.
The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan.
For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out.
The giving and receiving go on in equal measure.
The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously.
It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps.
The Sea of Galilee gives and lives.
The other sea gives nothing. It is named The Dead.

There are two kinds of people in the world.
There are two seas in Palestine.


Giving and Receiving are choices that are made not day by day, but moment by moment.

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